West Ham legend Tony Gale is not surprised Declan Rice has made an immediate impact at Arsenal and has backed the midfielder to inspire a Premier League title challenge at the Emirates.
Rice scored a dramatic stoppage-time goal to put the Gunners in front against Manchester United last Sunday, seconds before a Gabriel Jesus finish capped a 3-1 victory.
And Gale believes the England international’s class and versatility will justify the initial £100million fee Arsenal reportedly paid the Hammers in July.
Gale said: “Dec is worth the money, without a doubt.
“He’s a terrific player and can play in a few positions for Arsenal, which will give them a bit of variation in their play.
“He can play as their holding midfielder, as one of two pivots or as an advanced midfielder. He has a lot to his game and a lot more to learn, too.
“I maybe disagree when he says he’s learned a whole new game at Arsenal. He’s only been there a few weeks.
“But he’s probably playing with better players at the moment, just as he does when he goes away with England.”
Unearthing a gem
The ex-defender, 63, has followed Rice’s development in his role as a club ambassador for the Hammers.
Gale added: “He’s got great commitment and he’s an infectious character, as you could see when he was running around like a lunatic after his goal on Sunday.
“He loves the adulation of the fans, absolutely loves it. And that’s what makes him a special kind of boy.
“He comes from a really lovely family. They’re all grounded. And West Ham have done all the hard work for Arsenal. They’ve got a gem on their hands.
“I still think Manchester City will win the league but Arsenal look like the best of the rest if there’s to be a challenge.”
“He only plays in one way and it’s all about commitment in defending, attacking, passing. Once he crosses the line, he’s in the zone.”
The Rice and Palhinha stories were two of several transfer dramas to dominate the summer.
And Gale claims that while the way they are covered has changed, such sagas were commonplace during his playing days.
He said: “It was all going on before. There were always players that were unhappy, players that were getting more money than others.
“The TV coverage makes it seem more dramatic now — and the prices have changed — but it’s always been the same game. That’s why we love it.”